An ethogram method for the analysis of human distress in the aftermath of public conflicts

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Research on nonhuman animals has widely documented the behavioural expression of distress in a conflict context. In humans, however, this remains largely unknown due to the lack of direct access to real-life conflict events. Here, we took the aftermath of 129 video recorded street fights and applied the ethological method to explore the behavioural cues of people previously involved in a fight. Drawing on observations on nonhuman behaviour and inductively identified behaviours, we developed and inter-coder reliability tested an ethogram for the behavioural repertoire of distress. We further quantitively analysed the behaviours with a correlation matrix and PCA, that revealed that the behaviours we observed were not displayed in combination with each other, showing a variability in how people express distress. Since both human and nonhuman primates react to conflict situations with similar expressions of distress, we suggest a comparative approach to understand the evolutionary roots of human behaviour.

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